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Someone could win home

Think you can't afford the American dream?

Largo might be able to help.

The city will sell a three-bedroom house through its Homestead Program, which provides assistance to low- and moderate-income people so they can buy their first home.

Largo will hold the drawing for the house, appraised at $124,000, at a City Commission meeting in April.

The selected buyer will need to secure a mortgage for at least $50,000 and purchase homeowner's insurance for one year.

Erica Wine, who bought a house through the program in 2002, said the process alleviated much of the stress of buying a new home.

"It really helped me out a lot knowing that everything else was taken care of. All I had to do was get my homeowners insurance," said Wine, 30, a single mother of three who works as a medical receptionist.

Wine, who was paying about $600 a month for a Clearwater apartment, said she hadn't considered owning a home until her cousin told her it was more practical to buy a house than to pay rent for a home that would never be hers.

She had her doubts but remembered thinking, "Here's a house cheaper than the rent I'm paying on an apartment."

In 2002, about seven people became eligible for two homes offered through Largo's Homestead Program.

Now, the city is offering one of those homes again, a 1,076-square-foot house at 2812 Adrian Ave., which has two bathrooms, a carport with a utility-laundry room and wooden floors. The previous buyer got married and decided to move, said Terry Buyers, a Largo housing finance specialist.

The city will subtract $12,400 _ 10 percent of the sale price _ and will offer a second interest-free mortgage for the remainder of the home and closing costs. The buyer won't have to pay for the second mortgage for 20 years or until he or she pays off their first mortgage.

One requirement of the program is that once a family gets a house, it must live there for five years. If the owner moves before the end of the five-year period, the house reverts to the city. That's what happened with the home on Adrian Avenue.

The HomeBuyers Club of Tampa Bay Community Development Corp. will counsel people interested in the home, reviewing their income, budget and credit to see if they're eligible. Even if they don't qualify, the club will work with them so they will be prepared to purchase this house or another in the future.

Extensive work was done on the house, which was built in 1955, before it was sold in 2002. Renovations included roof replacement, insulation, exterior painting, electrical and plumbing upgrades, floor refurbishing, and installation of a new air conditioning system, new doors, kitchen cabinets and appliances and bathroom vanities.

Before this sale, the city will do minor repairs and renovations including the installation of a window in the utility room and a sidewalk in front of the home.

The city began the Homestead Program in 1991 and about a decade ago, as the number of eligible buyers rose, the city decided to hold a drawing.

To be eligible for this home, people must be first-time home buyers and their income cannot exceed 80 percent of the area's median income. For a family of four, that amount would be $40,950.

The homeowner also must be approved for the highest mortgage available for his or her income level, at a minimum of $50,000, and needs to complete an income certification process before March 25.

TO LEARN MORE

For information on buying this home through the Homestead Program, call the HomeBuyers Club at 446-6222.

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